Wednesday, April 27, 2016


While the SAT has undergone massive revisions in the past few months, the ACT is also responding with a few tweaks to the Science section.  Nothing major is changing, but it's worth a look so June test takers are prepared.

In the old ACT version, you would rely on there being 3 raw data, 3 research summary, and one differing viewpoints data sets, with 5, 6, and 7 questions, respectively.  In the updated version, there are still the three TYPES of information presentations, but the number of data sets and the number of questions in each can vary.

Don't worry.  The strategies for finding, comparing, and extrapolating details won't change.  The only real difference is that with possibly 6 questions based on raw data, you may have to dig a little deeper to analyze the information given.  That could actually be a benefit to the test taker because there is less need to adjust to a new topic.  Once you're "into" a data set, you can stick with it longer, albeit in greater detail.

So here's the plan for tackling the Science section.

1) Answer the questions in the order presented.  More often than not, the easier ones come first and can give you an idea of what's being reported, without trying to understand nonessential minutiae.

2) Identify key words in the question stem and match them with labels from the data set.     


3)  Take personal notes.  The example here uses "T" for temperature and "RT" for reaction time, but this code is temporary and refers only to this particular question set.  The next group of questions may ask about Turtles, so "T" could stand for something entirely different.  

4)  Notice that I'm not concerned at this point with what is said about Experiment 1.  My assumption is that "Reaction Time" is the time it takes for "the purple color to disappear" since that's the only thing reported in the chart.  Strategy 4 is to NOT WASTE TIME with useless information like "a 3.2 mL sample of some chemical I don't recognize anyway is poured into a clean 4L cylinder by a graduate student at UWM on Tuesday before his mother's birthday..."  Focus on the details of the question.

5)  Use your personal note taking system to organize collected data.  "T up -- RT dn" is an example.  Another question type could give a comparison and ask for sentence completion.  Be careful to identify the SUBJECT of the sentence you're finishing.


6) Don't be afraid to write all over the test booklet.  Nobody will ever look at it, and nobody else will be reusing your booklet. 

Even without the ability to actually read the axes in this smudged graph, I can pick out "boiling point," match the chemical, find 80%, and estimate the direction of the curve.  This is a lot of note taking, but with it, the answer pops out as a whole lot bigger than 115˚C.  Watch for those "smaller than" and "greater than" options.  Usually, if you are expected to extend a graph past it's domain or range, the answer will be one of those extremes.

7)  Use a system of ELIMINATION to discard answers that are obviously wrong.  A, C, and D in Tip 2 are easy examples.  For this one...
I'm looking at Experiments and 2, and if MnSO4 is not mentioned, I'm throwing F out.

For more discussion of ACT in general or specific sections, return to top and go to the upper left corner of the first page. Enter the topic you are researching.  Scroll past the index and see what tips will help you earn a top score on the ACT.

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